PNNL develops safety app for fuel cell hydrogen

September 17, 2013 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a free app covering hydrogen safety.

COURTESY PNNL

— The growing use of fuel cells has prompted Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland to develop an app, Hydrogen Tools, that focuses on hydrogen safety.

It is available at no cost from the Apple App Store.

Fuel cells are becoming more common in a variety of applications — as back-up energy sources in buildings, in vehicles and in warehouses, where they are often used to power forklifts, according to Nick Barilo, the PNNL project manager who led the team that developed the app.

“Many people are unfamiliar with the technology, and this app is intended to make the information they need available at their fingertips," he said in a statement.

Fuel cells generate electricity by driving electrochemical reactions using hydrogen and air, producing power with dramatically reduced emissions compared to traditional hydrocarbon-based fuels. The only byproducts are heat and water.

“In addition to being a clean energy option, fuel cells can offer some real advantages in certain applications,” Barilo said. “Last year during Hurricane Sandy, for instance, cell phone towers that relied on a fuel cell as a backup energy source continued to work throughout the storm, with just a few exceptions, even in areas where cell towers relying on other power sources were rendered inoperable.”

Hydrogen Tools brings together a variety of resources and web-based content. It includes information about ventilation of hydrogen, safe distances and pressures for storing hydrogen and best practices for safely handling hydrogen.

The tool was developed with money from the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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